Corporate site selection is a complex undertaking – even for those well acquainted with the task.
From the initial decision to expand or relocate to the proverbial ribbon-cutting ceremony, there are countless decisions for a company to make – and no two projects are ever alike.
There are real estate searches, market analyses, labor studies, construction costs and quality of life considerations – not to mention securing connections with the appropriate local, regional and state officials.
Even in the most ideal conditions, the site selection process requires a diligent approach dependent upon not only location criteria but also fiscal evaluation, strategic negotiations and above all, uncompromising client confidentiality.
Renowned industry expert Kate McEnroe is no stranger to the pitfalls of site selection. As owner of Chicago-based Kate McEnroe Consulting, she has extensive experience helping companies navigate the sometimes-choppy waters of the site location process.
When it comes to advising companies on how best to move forward with a site search, McEnroe says there are a few things that are key to an efficient and successful process.
First and foremost, McEnroe says it’s important for companies to have a firm grasp of what is important and what tradeoffs they are willing to make right from the start.
“People often start off with a wish list that is too long and that is not grounded necessarily in what is available on this planet,” says McEnroe. “You have to think through your biggest pain points; not what utopia looks like. That is something that is not on the planet.”
She says she often tells companies to consider what is most important to their project, why it’s most important and what is causing difficulty in their current situation. Then, examine how that situation can be improved upon.
Additionally, McEnroe advises being realistic about the project timeframe.
“What often happens is that a company will start out saying, ‘We need a decision by X date and we need to be up and running by Y date,’” says McEnroe. “But then, at the back end, they may not be moving that quickly, after all, so they eliminated options they didn’t necessarily have to eliminate because they weren’t realistic about their timeframe.”
McEnroe says these are the types of things she tries to hammer out with clients during the initial stages of a site location project.
“You will be more efficient if you take a little time up front and put some structure around it,” says McEnroe. “It’s much more beneficial to move in a directed path.”
Otherwise, it’s easy to get sidelined by “shiny” distractions – other buildings, different communities or articles touting locations that are “best for business.”
While many companies do conduct their own site searches, bringing in an outside expert can afford some valuable benefits.
Companies traditionally turn to site consultants for a few reasons. Perhaps the company has no one in-house who has previously gone through the site selection process. In other situations, third-party objectivity is warranted. Some companies might recruit a site consultant when a short list of sites has already been determined.
But in the end, all the databases, online tools and software products in the world don’t necessarily translate into the most profitable business solution.
Sometimes it’s that personal perspective beyond just the numbers that leads to the best – and not always the most obvious – answer.
And that can make all the difference in the long run.
* For more information visit katemcenroe.com.